New International Version
You women who are so complacent,
rise up and listen to me;
you daughters who feel secure,
hear what I have to say!
In little more than a year
you who feel secure will tremble;
the grape harvest will fail,
and the harvest of fruit will not come.
Tremble, you complacent women;
shudder, you daughters who feel secure!
Strip off your fine clothes
and wrap yourselves in rags.
Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vines
and for the land of my people,
a land overgrown with thorns and briers—
yes, mourn for all houses of merriment
and for this city of revelry.
The fortress will be abandoned,
the noisy city deserted;
citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever,
the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,
till the Spirit is poured on us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
The word complacent here in the Hebrew means ease, secure, and quiet. They felt secure and became spiritually complacent because they believed they could trust and find security in Egypt. But the Lord confronts them through the words of Isaiah. The Lord says rise up and listen. It is almost as if God is grabbing them by the shirt collar and pulling them very close. Their sin and wickedness has caused them to fall spiritually asleep and they are in danger of destroying themselves. Ultimately their sin and wickedness would lead to the Babylonians invading the land in 586 BC and taking the people into captivity.
The Lord says in little more than a year. The Lord is pointing to the time of the Assyrian invasion. It would touch the vintage of the land. The comfort and ease by which the people had become accustomed would be no more. God ultimately would intervene and save Jerusalem from Assyria, but sadly the people did not fully learn to trust the Lord and walk in obedience.
Wrapping themselves in sackcloth and rags was a sign of mourning. The prophet declares to strip off their fine clothes. Their fine clothes represent ease and comfort. The Lord tells them to tremble and shudder. Some may read this and say this doesn’t sound like the God I know. When God is confronting people about their sin there are times when people continue to ignore the word of the Lord and the Lord must confront them and the intensity increases. God doesn’t do this out of a desire to destroy in His anger. He does it from a place of love to awaken His people to their wrong. It is the same reaction for a parent who is watching their child go in the wrong direction. They do all they can to get the attention of that child, but ultimately that child has to make their own choices. Every time God has to bring correction and discipline He does so from a broken heart. His desire is for His sons and daughters to walk in obedience.
The Lord tells them to beat their breasts as a sign of mourning for the beautiful field and fruitful vine. They depended on the harvest that came forth and the production of the vine. Because God is the author of life and it is through Him alone that life comes, He is the source of Israel’s increase. To get the attention of the people the Lord would often hold off the rains and His blessing upon the production of their field and vines. Again God’s ultimate goal and desire is repentance from His people.
When Israel walked in obedience to the Lord, the Lord’s blessing was upon the land. But when they walked in disobedience and rebellion and refused to turn to the Lord the result was that God’s blessing was removed. The land instead of being marked by fruitful production was instead marked by thorns and briers. The Lord calls Jerusalem this city of revelry. They had turned their hearts away from the Lord and pursued those things that were contrary to God and His word. This is how God always works to bring His people to the place of repentance.
The fortress, the citadel, and the watchtower would be abandoned when Babylon came and was used by God to send the people into exile. A once bustling city would be reduced to a wasteland. It would become a delight of donkeys and a pasture for flocks. God would send Israel into exile for seventy years. During that seventy years the land would look like a pasture land and wasteland. But God never abandoned His people. But all that He did was to bring His people to a place of repentance.
The answer to the rebellion of Israel was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What Israel needed was a change of heart. They needed the Spirit of God to come and live inside them. Joel prophesied in 2:28-32 that in the last days the Lord would pour out His Spirit on His sons and daughters. We know that the Spirit of God was poured out on Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus that brings restoration and healing.
Under the Old Covenant the law was written on stone. It was not written upon the hearts of the people. In Jeremiah 31:31-34 Jeremiah speaks of the new covenant that God would establish with His people. He says that His law will be written upon their hearts. The Lord says that He will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.
The Old Covenant served its purpose until the time of the coming of Jesus. Everything under the Old Covenant pointed to Jesus and it is in Jesus that we find all things in the law fulfilled. Jesus said Himself that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). Through Jesus Christ our debt has been fully paid. In Him we are declared righteous and forgiven. Israel throughout its history struggled with rebellion and disobedience. But all of that would change once the Spirit of God was poured out. Under the New Covenant we are called to walk and live according to the Spirit (Romans 8:5). Today we are not called to try to keep the law in our own strength, we are called to live and walk according to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.